researchers are to investigate whether women
who consume large amounts of caffeine during
pregnancy are more likely to have children
with a lower birth weight, in a major study
for the Food Standards Agency. The study is
run jointly with the University of Leicester.
Project leader Dr Janet Cade (pictured
left) said: Its been thought
for many years that caffeine is a problem
but the evidence isnt conclusive. Previous
studies have ignored the wide range of caffeine
sources and just looked at tea and coffee,
or even just coffee. Theyve also asked
women to report their own intake, which isnt
always reliable, and ignored other important
factors such as caffeine metabolism. Our study
is designed to overcome these problems.
Researchers will look all possible caffeine
sources, such as energy drinks, chocolate
and even medicines. Using the latest methods
of testing caffeine intake through
saliva samples they will also be able
to assess how fast individuals metabolise
caffeine. Factors like smoking, which increase
the rate of caffeine metabolism, will also
be taken into account.
A pilot study involving women from the Leeds
area is already underway and the full survey
will begin in October, recruiting 3,000 mothers-to-be
from maternity units at St James University
Hospital, the LGI, and from Leicester.
We hope our study will provide a clearer
picture of the effects of caffeine during
pregnancy, to inform the guidelines given
out by the FSA and help women make informed
choices, said Dr Cade.